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Date: 02-23-2022

Case Style:

United States of America v. Lisa Miller

Case Number:

Judge: Richard J. Arcara

Court: United States District Court for the Western District of New York (Erie County)

Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office

Defendant's Attorney:

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Description: Buffalo, New York criminal defense attorney represented defendant charged with international parental kidnapping.

Lisa Miller, 53, formerly of Virginia, pleaded guilty to international parental kidnapping, which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Defendant Miller was in a civil union with Janet Jenkins under Vermont law. Miller was artificially inseminated during the civil union and had a child, IMJ. In 2003, Miller sought termination of the civil union and disputes arose regarding Miller’s and Jenkins' parental rights of IMJ. Miller disputed those parental rights in both Virginia and Vermont courts. Prior to September 2009, Jenkins had been awarded parental rights in Vermont. In early September 2009, the Vermont family court, which had jurisdiction over the dispute regarding the parental rights of IMJ, ordered that Janet Jenkins was entitled to an unsupervised parental visit with IMJ on the weekend of September 25, 2009. Miller was aware of the court ordered visit but did not want to allow unsupervised visitation for that weekend. In the early morning of September 22, 2009, Miller removed IMJ from the United States to Canada via Buffalo, NY, and eventually to Nicaragua, with the intention to take IMJ out of the country in order to obstruct Jenkins' court ordered parental rights. Miller remained out of the country until she voluntarily returned to the United States in January 2021, after IMJ had reached 18 years of age.

Three other defendants were charged and convicted for their roles in this case. Philip Zodhiates was charged in the Western District of New York and convicted following a jury trial of international parental kidnapping and conspiracy to commit international parental kidnapping and sentenced to serve 36 months in prison. Zodhiates organized the kidnapping of IMJ. He also assisted in the recruitment of Mennonite Pastor Kenneth Miller, who was convicted following a jury trial of international parental kidnapping in the District of Vermont and sentenced to serve 27 months in prison. Timothy Miller was also charged, convicted, and sentenced to time served (eight months) for his role in assisting Lisa Miller. He purchased a one-way plane ticket for Lisa Miller and IMJ to travel from Toronto, Ontario to Nicaragua. Upon their arrival in Nicaragua, Timothy Miller assisted Lisa Miller and IMJ financially including providing them with shelter.

The plea is the culmination of an investigation by the Vermont Office of the U.S. Marshal’s Service, under the direction of Marshal Bradley Larose; and the Vermont Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent-in-Charge. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael DiGiacomo and Paul Van de Graaf are handling the case.


"(a) Whoever removes a child from the United States, or attempts to do so, or retains a child (who has been in the United States) outside the United States with intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both.

(b) As used in this section—

(1) the term “child” means a person who has not attained the age of 16 years; and

(2) the term “parental rights”, with respect to a child, means the right to physical custody of the child—

(A) whether joint or sole (and includes visiting rights); and

(B) whether arising by operation of law, court order, or legally binding agreement of the parties.

(c) It shall be an affirmative defense under this section that—

(1) the defendant acted within the provisions of a valid court order granting the defendant legal custody or visitation rights and that order was obtained pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act and was in effect at the time of the offense;

(2) the defendant was fleeing an incidence or pattern of domestic violence; or

(3) the defendant had physical custody of the child pursuant to a court order granting legal custody or visitation rights and failed to return the child as a result of circumstances beyond the defendant's control, and the defendant notified or made reasonable attempts to notify the other parent or lawful custodian of the child of such circumstances within 24 hours after the visitation period had expired and returned the child as soon as possible."


Outcome: 02/16/2022 318 Minute Entry for Zoom for Government proceeding held on 2/16/2022 before Hon. Richard J. Arcara as to defendant, Lisa Miller. Plea Proceeding was held. Plea of guilty entered by Lisa Miller (1) to Count 2 of the Superseding Indictment. This proceeding is held remotely via video teleconferencing pursuant to consent of the defendant as stated on the record. Defense counsel identifies and confirms that Deft is appearing on the video teleconference from a location separate from defense counsel. The Court will sign an order titled, "Order Regarding Use of Video or Teleconferencing for Felony Pleas and/or Sentencings". Admonitions against recording and public access procedures are described by the Courtroom Deputy Clerk. Sentencing is scheduled for 6/9/2022 at 1:00 PM and will be in person, in the Courtroom. The following schedule is established for the submission of sentencing papers: initial Presentence Investigation Report due by 4/25/2022; statement with respect to sentencing actors, objections and/or motions, including 5K1.1 motion, government notice not to file 5K1.1 motion, or government motion for extension of time to file 5K1.1 motion, if applicable, due by 5/19/2022; notice by the defendant of government failure to file 5K1.1 motion, if applicable, due by 5/24/2022; responses to objections and/or motions due by 5/26/2022; character letters and/or sentencing memorandum in support of the defendant due by 5/26/2022; motion to adjourn sentencing due by 5/31/2022; final Presentence Investigation Report due by 6/2/2022; government's response papers to legal arguments in defendant's sentencing memorandum due by 6/2/2022; Response to Request for a non-guidelines sentence due 6/6/2022. Appearances: Michael DiGiacomo, AUSA; Paul J. Van De Graaf, AUSA; Robert Daniel Boyce, Esq.,; Raymond Dague, Esq., (with defendant). Defendant continues to be remanded. Order regarding Use of Video or Teleconferencing attached. (ALL APPEARANCES REMOTELY VIA ZOOM). -PROBATION NOTIFIED OF PLEA- (Court Reporter Megan Pelka.) (BK) (Entered: 02/16/2022)
02/16/2022 319 PLEA AGREEMENT as to Lisa Miller. (BK) (Entered: 02/18/2022)

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